Let’s just get this out of the way now: I don’t listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. My friends have told me all about them and I’ve seen that scene in 28 Days Later that uses one of their songs to show the utter hopelessness of waking up in a post-apocalyptic world. But save for the one time I heard Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven while driving my friend back from New York, I’ve heard more about them then I’ve actually heard them. So when I saw them on on Wednesday I really had no idea what to expect.
Post rock, much like prog rock, is a genre I’ve always wanted to get into but never got around to doing so, mainly because the songs are so long and dense. That doesn’t stop me from reading about post rock while I should be doing homework though so I have a good idea about what the genre means. I always hear it described as “music for the Apocalypse” or “the soundtrack to the end of the world.” This has colored my opinion of the genre, but it’s more like looking through a foggy window instead of just walking outside and climbing some trees.
I jumped at the opportunity to see Atoms For Peace kicking off the US leg of their tour in support of “Amok” at the Liacouras Center. For those who don’t know, the superband is composed of Thom Yorke of Radiohead, frequent collaborator and producer Nigel Godrich, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco, and Joey Waronker. They entered the stage and kicked things off with the opening track to “Amok” entitled “Before Your Very Eyes…” Yorke then broke between the next song to voice one of the few words he would say that night: “My name is Jay Z,” (gesturing to Flea) “and this Beyonce.” Delving back into the music, Atoms For Peace played both original songs and versions of Thom Yorke’s solo material from his 2006 record “The Eraser.” Yorke flailed around the stage doing his signature moves while his haunting voice danced above Flea’s erratic basslines. Refosco showed off his talent playing various indigenous percussion instruments, some of which I could even recognize. The performance had a high level of energy and emotion, something that couldn’t ever be captured on an album. All of the members were fully invested in each song and every move and note was calculated; even down to the lights which fluttered and pulsed to the music.
After an impressive set, Atoms For Peace walked off the stage to roars from the crowd. When they returned for an encore, Flea had a melodica in hand. They performed an interesting and jarring version of Yorke’s “Skip Divided.” Also in the encore was a cover of UNKLE’s “Rabbit in Your Headlights” and Radiohead rarity “Paperbag Writer.” Five songs later, they left the stage again. It was clear they weren’t over just yet, roadies tuned and adjusted guitars in the dimmed lights. Finally, the collective returned; this time Flea making a costume change into a Temple basketball jersey. The final two songs were again Thom Yorke originals, “Atoms For Peace” and “Black Swan.”
The musical genius of this band is remarkable and seeing them live is an experience in itself. “Amok” is available now, for more information on the band and future tour dates, visit http://atomsforpeace.info/
I was extremely excited to get a chance to catch Kishi Bashi at the First Unitarian Church on September 14. This was his second show he’s played at the Church, last year playing in the basement, this time playing in the sanctuary upstairs. I have seen him perform before, just a few months ago at Firefly Festival. I was blown away by his performance and I knew right away his Philadelphia show was one not to miss.
One of the opening acts was Elizabeth and the Catapult. Never hearing of them before, I was unsure of what I was about to see. The band, comprised of Elizabeth Ziman on vocals and keys, Danny Molad on drums, and Peter Lalish on guitar; was a mix of poppy rock comparable to Rilo Kiley, loungey vocals of Lana Del Rey mixed with heavy jazz influences. Elizabeth opened up with a solo version of “Thank You For Nothing.” She stood on stage with a keyboard and sparse lighting. The song captivated the entire room and it was the perfect first song to open the set with. After loud cheers, the set picked up intensity. Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees came on stage a few times to collaborate with the band as well. Towards the end, Elizabeth and the Catapult played a moving cover of Dawes’s “When My Time Comes,” to which Elizabeth prefaced the cover by saying Dawes has been one of her favorite bands. She also played accordion and various other instruments throughout the rest of the set. After the surprise standout performance of Elizabeth and the Catapult, it was now time for Kishi Bashi. He announced that the show that night would be their last one for a few days, and that he wanted to play for as long as possible–a goal he fulfilled, ending his set well after midnight. Three new songs were debuted from his upcoming album that is scheduled for release next spring, including a personal favorite “Mister Steak.”
Seeing Kishi Bashi is an experience, some parts of the show seem like they don’t make sense, but he knows exactly what he’s doing. As a classically trained violinist, it is clear his early training in music is still very much part of his work. He played long solos, looping parts over and over until it sounded like an entire orchestra was filling the church. He recorded his voice, either singing pitches or beatboxing over the violins. Then, catching everyone off guard, he would double or half the speed of the loops creating an entirely different sound. Tall Tall Trees, a frequent collaborator with Kishi Bashi, again joined the stage to play more songs with his lightup banjo.
Taking a break before “I Am the Antichrist to You,” Kishi Bashi made some jokes about singing about an Antichrist in a church. He also took the time to express his gratitude for the Philadelphia crowd and how much he really does enjoy coming to this city. He finished his set with a highlight from his debut 151a: “Manchester.” The place lit up with cheers for an encore and after less than a minute he was back on stage. He promised to play one more song, “Bright Whites,” which was soon followed by a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” with the bassist on vocals and Tall Tall Trees on banjo again. Kishi Bashi jumped into the crowd while the song played and crowd surfed, videotaping the whole thing on his phone.
Getting to see Kishi Bashi is never a disappointment. He is an incredibly talented musician and an amazing performer with amazing energy. Be sure to download 151a and be on the lookout for new material from him in 2014!
As I sat beneath the shade of a tent in Saunder’s Park last Saturday, slowly wilting from the midday heat, I couldn’t help but wonder one thing: why aren’t there more festivals in April? Despite the oppressive temperature (mid-90s and humid for much of the day), people were beginning to trickle in for the 7th Annual Lancaster Avenue Jazz & Arts Festival, a free concert that seeks to coax jazz out from its ivory tower and allow it to mingle with the community for an afternoon.
A night of surf, sweat, and musical theatrics best describes the Man or Astro-man? show that took place on June 22 at Underground Arts. Fire-lit theremins, spacesuits, and background projections are what you’d expect from the 20(ish) years of experience of the headliners, but the use of fog machines and extreme beachwear weren’t lost on the openers.
Philadelphia Beach locals, Dry Feet, started the evening with a set of crunchy, reverb dusted surf rock. Tales of skateboards, eating too much, sleeping too little, and respect to the ladies of the world (including their mothers) filled the ears of many a head-bobbing beach bum. Perry Cola, Jay K. Shin, and Frizz B led the way to a surf paradise in their tie dye shirts, jumpsuits, and scuba masks.
Up next were Jacuzzi Boys, on a 10 day tour with Man or Astro-Man? who brought the Miami (…cough…Beach… cough) Heat. With a new self titled record on the way, the three piece played a set of fan favorites (“Glazin’,” “Crush,” “Koo Koo with You,” as well as some new singles “Double Vision” and “Domino Moon.”
Finally, the Man or Astro-Man? crew started the projections set up. The lights dimmed, the screens lit up, and the crowd cheered as the band walked to their places. Bassist/Theremin/electronics player Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard was in full form; space suit, helmet, and space-ified bass were set to go. The full house at Underground Arts cheered and danced as the veterans of surf rock performed an amazing set reflective of their decades of experience.
At this point, I can’t even remember how many times I’ve seen Tigers Jaw (maybe five?). Back in high school, I’d venture into the city to catch them at small venues like The Fire and Ava House. They would frequently play with another group of my favorite local emo-punks, Algernon Cadwallader. It was those shows that foreshadowed, and perhaps even sparked the fuse that led to my current musical tastes.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d still be able to appreciate Tigers Jaw as I used to, and was concerned that I’d feel nostalgic at best. However, it turned out that their music resonated with me just as much, if not even more, than it did before.
It’s been awhile since folk-rocker Devendra Banhart performed a show in Philadelphia. June 10th marked his return to the city, playing a show at the Union Transfer. The night was one of only a handful of shows he will be playing in the US this year. His eighth record, Mala was released back in March and has been highly praised by many. His live shows are something of a spectacle and I was eager to see one for myself.